Caught At A Bad Moment – Short Story

*Kate is on her way home, barely making curfew as it is, but when she hears heavy, pained breaths from an alley near her home… Can she live with herself if she doesn’t at least try to help?*

March Theme: Meetings

The sound of laboured breaths filtered into the street. Above Kate’s head a streetlight flickered, she slowed to a stop on the periphery of the circle of light, shadow skittering across red brick buildings to her side and the black road beneath her feet.

The whistling of a uniformed officer casually patrolling up and down this particular street, more than ready for curfew to take effect, nearly drowned out the breaths. Kate hesitated, she was pushing the boundaries of curfew already. She shouldn’t stop, she shouldn’t risk it, especially not with a uniformed officer so close and about to turn back and follow Kate the rest of the way up the street toward her home. Kate barely had time to make it to her door before curfew took effect, she’d been touching at the keys clipped to the place her bag strap met her bag – an easy of access location specifically for events such as these.

Still, a glance over her shoulder reinforced the fact that the officer was still wandering away, hand lingering on a belt with more weapons than made Kate feel comfortable, let alone safe. Away from Kate. Away from the narrow alley from which the rough breaths echoed.

A deep inhalation of her own, Kate dipped out of the street light’s glow and into the alley. She tripped on some discarded metal, sending it skittering across the path, bouncing off the walls in a cacophonous racket.

The breaths froze, leaving Kate cloaked in darkness. It would be just her luck that this was some kind of setup for nosy people like Kate. Thugs lingering at the end of the alley, waiting for someone to trip over the noisy cans littering the walkway to announce their presence. It wasn’t like Kate would be able to call for help from the officer in the street beyond. It would be her own fault for venturing into a dangerous setting on the edge of curfew.

She could turn back. She could call the officer over. But something in Kate, that small piece of her that didn’t trust the cheery whistles that sounded down the streets at night, thought someone hiding in an alley with breaths coming in such shallow gasps might not want a uniformed officer involved.

But what did Kate know?

She wasn’t exactly knowledgeable about people on the fringes of society, if this person even was. All Kate knew was that the breaths would haunt her if she didn’t at least try to help. Even if it put her in trouble herself.

At the end of the alley, shrouded in the same level of darkness, a figure leaned against a rattling chain fence. In the dimness, it was a challenge to make out any details, so Kate pulled out her phone and activated the torch function, trusting that she was far enough into the alley that the officer in the street wouldn’t spot the light.

The stranger squinted in the sudden light and offered Kate a grimace of a smile. “You appear to have caught me in a bad moment.” Their words came out as laboured as their breaths had been, the breaths that had summoned Kate into the alley in the first place.

Kate’s torch revealed a white shirt painted red and brown with blood across the middle and up the sleeves.

Kate stumbled back.

“It’s okay,” the bloodied stranger said. “You don’t have to help.”

Kat shook her head and set her phone on the ground between them, light shining up like a beacon into the night sky. “I’m Kate. What can I do? How can I help?”

*Don’t forget my book is coming out on Tuesday 14th March (aka, the next Tuesday there is!) and, because I’m excited, I’ll be sharing an extra short story from that universe (and kinda relevant to that book) right here on — if you’re on my mailing list you’ve already had access to it because that’s the kind of thing I do over there.*

Anyway, if you’re interested in my new book, here’s a link to more info and here are 2 buy links: signed paperbacks, unsigned eBooks — it is available in bookstores but it’s hard to get a universal link for that right now. You can get the first one from Barnes and Noble, but you might have to ask to get it ordered in for you.

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and I’ll see you all next week for another Short Story.

© nopoodles 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023


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